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UNESCO World Heritage Sites 2013

Regular readers will have seen us mention UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites in the past. To be on their world heritage list is a top honour for monuments, buildings, sites or natural features "of outstanding universal value." There are 981 such sites and for many, they form the basis of “sights to see before I die”.

19 new sites were added to UNESCO's list this year, rubbing shoulders with natural wonders such as Uluru and the Grand Canyon as well as man-made masterpieces of cultural significance like the Acropolis in Athens and the archaeological temple sites of Angkor.

The Flexicover Team take at looks at some of the ‘newcomers’.

Fujisan, Japan

Better known by its unofficial name, Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain stands at 3,776 metres. Situated 60 miles south-west of Tokyo this majestic, astonishingly symmetrical, solitary volcano has been inspiring artists and poets since the 11th century. It appears in thousands of poems, paintings, photographs and famous wood block prints which made Fujisan an internationally recognised icon of Japan. Alongside the ensign of the rising red sun against a backdrop of white, it has become the most treasured symbol of the Japanese nation. In fact, for its contribution to the arts the United Nations body selected the mountain as a "cultural" rather than a "natural" heritage site.

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Germany

Located in Kassel, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is a 240 hectare mountain park, making it the largest in Europe. The main attraction is a giant 8.3 metre high copper statue of the Greek demigod Hercules, which overlooks monumental water displays; including a stunning 350 metre long Grand Cascade and the geyser-like Grand Fountain which shoots water 50 metres in the air. These and other water features are powered solely by a complex system of hydro pneumatic devices. The water displays were initiated by Landgrave Karl of Hesse-Kassel in 1689 and further developed in the 18th century by his great-grandson, Elector Wilhelm I. You can spend many hours wandering along the park paths, visiting its museums and enjoying the views. Bring a picnic to make the most of your day!

Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India

The hill forts of Rajasthan — Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Ranthambore, Gagron, Amber and Jaisalmer- are located on the rocky terrains of the Aravali mountains and make effective use of the mountainous terrain for defensive purposes. The Rajasthan region of India is known as the "Land of Kings" and forts have existed in the hills for centuries. In fact, the earliest known architectural findings, in the Ranthambore (home to the famous tiger park of the same name) and Chittorgarh forts, date back to the 5th century, but local legend claims that Kumbhalgarh dates back to the Maurya dynasty in the 2nd century BCE.

Mount Etna, Italy

Dominating the landscape of eastern Sicily and apparently visible from the moon, Mount Etna is an active volcano situated near Catania, Sicily’s second city. It is Europe’s largest volcano, currently standing at 3,329 metres and also one of the world's most active. In Greek Mythology, Zeus trapped the deadly monster Typhon under the mountain and the forges of Hephaestus were also said to be underneath it. Nowadays the ascent of Etna is the highlight of a visit to Sicily, not only for the volcanic phenomena but also for the spectacular views. It's recommended that you do so with an experienced guide, but it can be relatively easy, with a cable car to the 'first base' and an off-road bus that goes to the 'top' - though not into the dangerous restricted area near the active craters themselves.

University of Coimbra, Portugal

Located in Coimbra in central Portugal the University of Coimbra is set on a hill overlooking the city, and has evolved over more than seven centuries. Established in 1290, it's one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world. The Main University area is merely a small part of the whole, with notable sites such as the 12th century Santa Cruz Cathedral, an 18th century Botanical Garden and the Joanine Library, considered one of the most beautiful university libraries in the world. It holds over 250,000 books dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries, dealing mainly with civil and canon law, theology and philosophy.

Here's the list of the 14 other sites granted UNESCO World Heritage status by the committee in 2013:

  • Xinjiang Tianshan (China)
  • El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve (Mexico)
  • Namib Sand Sea (Namibia)
  • Tajik National Park (Tajikistan)
  • Red Bay Basque Whaling Station (Canada)
  • Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (China)
  • Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong (North Korea)
  • Levuka Historical Port Town (Fiji)
  • Golestan Palace (Iran)
  • Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany (Italy)
  • Historic Centre of Agadez (Niger)
  • Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region (Poland / Ukraine)
  • Al Zubarah Archaeological Site (Qatar)
  • Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora (Ukraine)

If you are lucky enough to visit any of these wonderful sites, at Flexicover, we are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.